Aaron and I like to go out to eat on weekends. It’s what we do. It wasn’t what we did once upon a time, when we were both poor college kids, but it’s what we do now.
Eating out wasn’t easy when we were on Atkins, almost five years ago, but we knew what we could eat and figured out how to adjust our dining to suit. Once we got into the groove of Atkins, there were very few places where we couldn’t finagle ourselves some meat and veggies without bread or starch.
Enter Weight Watchers.
This isn’t a more challenging plan overall; in fact, I appreciate being able to eat pretty much whatever I want in moderation. There are things to stay away from, as a general rule, but very few (if any) completely forbidden foods. It’s all about planning ahead.
In that vein, I decided to make a “short list” of restaurants and entrees that would work out well for my current diet. So, when Aaron gets up on Saturday morning and asks me where I want to eat, I can pull a name out of my arsenal of good choices, instead of playing the “I don’t know — where do YOU want to go” game until we’re both so hungry that I just give in to the siren song of the Chinese buffet.
Some places have online menus with nutritional information; for those places, I look online and decide on two or maybe three different menu items to choose from when I get there. For restaurants that don’t have their own nutrition facts online, but that are easily researchable, I take my digital camera (for lack of a cameraphone) and photograph my plate of food. That way, I can go back later and tally up what I ate (and compare it to my mental calculations of what I’d *thought* I ate).
So, without further ado, I present The Short List:
The Indian Jewel
Until I ate here, I didn’t realize how delicious vegetarian food could be. The Indian Jewel has a lunch buffet, which is perfect for trying new and exotic foods. It took a little online research (and some time to learn/remember the names of the foods I was eating), but I found that most of the food on the buffet is quite healthy, if eaten in reasonable portions. Lots of spinach, cottage cheese, rice, lamb, chicken, and curry sauces, in various combinations. My rules are to go easy on anything with a creamy sauce, and only have one plateful.
Counting points at Quizno’s is also not an exact science. Despite what the signs in the store say, the corporate website does NOT have complete nutritional information. What I end up doing is cross-referencing their list of “Watching Calories?” suggestions with the nutritional info on Calorie King and calculating points that way. Even without cheese or mayo, there are plenty of yummy subs to be had.
This is a midwestern franchise (Ohio, Michigan, and Pennsylvania) that specializes in — you guessed it — soups. They also have sandwiches and breads and other Panera-like offerings, but their soups are unique and delicious. They also have select nutrition facts listed on their website (and even Weight Watchers Points for some menu items), which is a pleasant surprise from a smallish regional franchise. Each location has different soups on the menu every day, so I look for my local Zoup! establishment’s menu and choose two potential soups for lunch. Zoup! allows and encourages soup sampling before you order, and one of the soups I preselected always makes the grade, taste-wise. One cup of soup and a hunk of multigrain bread is all I need for a satisfying lunch.
This can be tricky. Panera is one of those places where I have to look up nutrition facts online before I go, otherwise I could end up with a calorie-laden but quite delicious salad. (Case in point: Fuji Apple Chicken salad. 570 Calories with THIRTY grams of fat.) However, if I scan their Nutrition Guide PDF and select a couple salads and sandwiches to mix and match — say, the black bean soup with the turkey-artichoke panini — I can do the You Pick Two deal and get a half-sandwich and half-soup and feel pretty good about my choices.
I could also insert the name of just about any local Japanese restaurant here. I was absolutely thrilled when I saw in my Weight Watchers introductory info that a roll of maki was only two points. Considering that my standard meal of a salad, miso soup, green tea, and two (or three) rolls is quite filling, and adds up to a reasonable Points value, Japanese is once again a valid dinner choice.
This is a no-brainer, since they’ve teamed up with Weight Watchers to create their very own Weight Watchers menu. I tried a couple of the items last weekend, and had a sufficiently filling meal (soup and a large salad) for eight points. The selections are limited, of course, but the convenience of choosing from a list of entrees with Points values prominently displayed is a big draw. I could see this getting old after a few trips, but it seems to be yummy so far.
There are a few other restaurants that I thought would be on the Short List, but would actually be problematic to eat at, despite them having nutrition facts on their websites. These include Jimmy John’s (a sub place) and Red Robin (a burger joint — with bottomless fries).
See, while Jimmy John’s does list nutritional info, I can think of more delicious things to spend nine points on than an 8-inch ham sub on French bread with lettuce and tomato, hold the provolone, hold the mayo, but add dijon mustard. And while Red Robin allows you to customize your meal and thereby tweak its nutritional value, even a Garden Burger is still 12 points until you remove the Bistro Sauce (after which it’s a mere 8 points, but not quite as tasty). I can’t even calculate the Points for a Grilled Turkey Burger as it’s presented on the menu — my Points slider doesn’t go that high — but removing the chipotle mayo gets it down to 11 points.
So, planning ahead is one big key to success. Going into a situation prepared. Not getting caught unawares. Good for dieting. Good for life in general.